L.I.V.E.S. program expands, students speak at state conference

The L.I.V.E.S. program at Geneseo, now in its second year, allows students with intellectual or developmental disabilities to have a college experience tailored to meet their needs.

Eight freshmen and four returning sophomores are currently enrolled in the program. The students are not matriculated at Geneseo and do not live on campus, but are otherwise fully incorporated into activities and the college lifestyle. Students receive a certificate of completion after four years in the program.

L.I.V.E.S. (Learning Independence, Vocational and Educational Skills) is a five-tiered program where students take concentrated classes that seek to develop target areas: academics, vocational skills, social skills and recreational pursuits, independence and technology. Elizabeth Hall, assistant professor of the School of Education and co-founder of the program, said that L.I.V.E.S. is the only five-tiered program in the state.

Sophomore students in the program may audit regular Geneseo classes, as three have done this semester. Hall said that the experiences of these students have been very positive and that "the support of the faculty members teaching the classes has been phenomenal."

Tabitha Buggie-Hunt, assistant dean for disability services and co-founder of the program, said that one of the goals of L.I.V.E.S. is to provide its students with "the skills for competitive employment."

Buggie-Hunt said that many students with disabilities follow high school with a line of employment that "makes minimal use of their skills." She hopes that L.I.V.E.S. will help students find employment that matches their unique "skills and desires." Juniors in the L.I.V.E.S. program will be offered on-campus internship opportunities and will receive career counseling.

Through its partnership with The Arc, a community-based organization for people with intellectual disabilities, L.I.V.E.S. is providing optional residential services to enrolled students this year. Students may opt to live independently in Arc-owned homes within commuting distance of Geneseo and be provided with transportation to campus.

The program began as a partnership between the Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Service Office and the college. It initially only accepted students over the age of 21, but this year, L.I.V.E.S. has partnered with the Genesee Valley Board of Cooperative Educational Services to expand the program to include students between the ages of 18 and 21.

The L.I.V.E.S. program and its students have received regular recognition and praise. The program was featured by Think College, an organization that works with students with disabilities exploring college options, and was highlighted in the Long Island Autism Examiner.

Recently, the four sophomores in the program became the first students with disabilities to ever give a full-length presentation at a state-level conference. At the Council for Exceptional Children Conference, students presented a paper they had jointly written and answered questions from the audience about their experience in the L.I.V.E.S. program. Hall said that attendees were "blown away by their confidence, their passion for the program, and their exuberance." The students also presented their paper at last year's G.R.E.A.T. Day event.

Fifteen Geneseo students from a variety of majors currently volunteer or intern as mentors with the L.I.V.E.S. program. L.I.V.E.S. requires a one-year commitment from its student volunteers; those interested can apply at lives.geneseo.edu.